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Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Idrissa Gueye was "perceived as a hero" back in a Senegal after reportedly refusing to wear the rainbow flag last month - according to Bacary Cisse.
Gueye, formerly of Everton and Aston Villa, was a notable absentee for PSG's 4-0 away win over Montpellier despite travelling with the squad.
Mauricio Pochettino said Gueye "had to leave the team sheet for personal reasons" but confirmed his omission was not injury-related.
French outlet RMC Sport then went on to claim Gueye not playing was indeed due a boycott of a rainbow flag - the symbol of LGBTQ+ community and movement.
On the weekend of the Montpellier game, as part of 'World Day Against Homophobia', all matches in Ligue 1 included the flag on players' shirt numbers and captains' armbands.
The alleged noncompliance caused a serious stir in France but Cisse, an advisor to newly-announced Bayern Munich signing Sadio Mane, claims he had the support of the Senegalese people.
"We must not forget that Gueye was born in Senegal. He grew up there, he was educated there.
"We respect everything that others do, but we don't follow them in their culture. Culturally, no one would have understood if he had done anything other than what he did. He's not the only one.
"Today, Gueye has the total support of all Senegalese, of all Africans. In this case, we must not stigmatize the boy. He cannot justify this gesture. He was perceived as a hero in Senegal, of course. For us, Gueye is a hero.
"If Gueye had done otherwise, what would we have said? We would have been much more shocked."
French football federation's ethics board reportedly wanted Gueye to provide clarity for why he missed the game.
Crystal Palace star Cheikhou Kouyate caused controversy when he appeared to support his compatriot after calling him "a real man" on Instagram and wrote, "We wholeheartedly support you brother" in a post that was then deleted.
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